Friday, January 10, 2014

Maine Delivers Second Major Blow To Biotech

The quiet, reserved state of Maine just became the second David to deliver a blow to the Goliath biotechnology industry, easily passing a law that would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, to be labeled.

Maine's GMO labeling law passed the state's House by a vote of 141 to 4 and by a unanimous vote in the Senate. The bill requires any GMO food or seeds to be labeled and prohibits any foods containing GMOs to be labeled "natural."

Maine's passage of its law comes just a week after Connecticut passed a similar law. And like Connecticut's, Maine's new law has a "trigger clause" preventing labeling from going into effect until at least four other Northeastern states enact similar laws. Now that two states with similar trigger clauses have passed, though, other Northeastern states could feel more confident in passing their own GMO-labeling laws. "Maine's law had passed through one of the houses of state legislature before Connecticut's passed," says Rebecca Spector, "but I do think that Connecticut's passage probably encouraged legislators to push it forward and put in a trigger clause."

The point of the trigger clauses is the idea of safety in numbers. These laws are frequently attacked by biotech firms who feel that GMO labeling would lead consumers to avoid their products, and the well-funded lawyers of Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and others have had no problem threatening lawsuits against states that have tried to pass similar laws in the past.

"I think the writing has been on the wall for a while," says Spector. "Polling for at least the past 10 years consistently shows more than 90 percent of people want GMOs labeled. Food companies have seen this coming, and with the passage of these laws, there's definitely pressure to move more quickly."

Currently the two most reliable ways to keep GMOs out of your diet are to choose:

• USDA-certified-organic foods. Organic certification prohibits the use of GMO seeds and ingredients, but also be sure to stick with organic meat and dairy products. Even though non-organic meat and dairy products don't always contain ingredients derived from GMOs, animals not raised on organic farms are fed a diet of GMO grains.
• Non-GMO Project-verified foods. Since even in organic products, ingredients can be contaminated, the Non-GMO Project is an independent third party that tests products for GMO residues and verifies when they are GMO free. The USDA prohibits the use of GMOs in organic agriculture, but doesn't require testing to find ingredients that may unknowingly have been contaminated.


 

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